I don’t think Black History should be confined to just one month of the year and is something we should strive to learn about everyday throughout our journey in life.
However, during the month of October, it is an opportunity for us to collectively reflect upon and amplify the contributions the Black community have made, the challenges they have had to overcome, how far we have come in terms of progress made and continue to work towards a more inclusive society. It is imperative that we recognise and celebrate black excellence across the board.
Reflecting on myself, a British Asian man of Bangladeshi origin who grew up in East London, I was heavily influenced by Black culture from some of my role models down to the music I listened to. For me personally, Black History month is about an extension of my continuous education. Within our buried history, there are stories of inspirational figures from all areas or professions who broke down barriers and were responsible for opening doors for other to follow, often at great personal sacrifices. Whether it is social, political sports or arts and culture, there are stories of triumphs over adversities. This month is an opportunity for us to recognise those individuals who have collectively broke multiple barriers despite the challenges they faced, celebrate the accomplishments and progress made so far and highlight what needs to be done going forward.
There are a number of Black influential figures from all walks of life both past and present that I admire and am inspired by from around the world. People like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Mohammad Ali and Nelson Mandela just to name a few. Closer to home, we have our own iconic figureheads such as Paul Stephenson who sparked the Bristol bus boycott which led to the first Race Relations Act which addressed racial discrimination. Within music industry, I admire those who have pushed the boundaries here in the UK. Figureheads such as Courtney Pine who is a pioneer of the Jazz scene, Dame Shirley Bassey, Jazzy B, Mica Paris, Beverley Knight, Sade, Seal and a host of other worthy names.
Being a massive Hip Hop fan, I was heavily influenced by the UK Rap / Grime scene from the pirate radio station era where you had Kiss FM / Rinse FM and Déjà vu which shaped the UK sound and saw the emergence of some of my favourite UK MC’s such as Skepta, Kano and Giggs. If I was pushed to choose one album which inspired me the most, it would be ‘Boy In Da Corner’ by Dizzee Rascal. Not only was he from the same area of Bow where I also grew up but that album really pushed the boundaries for the scene in terms of its lyrics and sound. It still remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Growing up in Bow and being immersed in that scene from a young age, I was fortunate enough to witness some legendary rap battles involving some of most well-known artists to emerge from London which will live long in my memories.